When asked about great Italian cuisine, I rarely direct people to downtown. Not to say downtown has a lack of tasty Italian restaurants, because it doesn’t, but I find that the one must travel to the heart of an ethnic community to find the best authentic foods. There are actually a few Italian communities spread around Metro Vancouver, including one in Burnaby Heights. A drive down the street will reveal many Italian restaurants (Da Mario’s, Anton’s) and deli’s. There you’ll fine Il Pappagallo Caffe, located at the eastern tip of Hastings St.
I was recommended to Il Pappagallo Caffe by a friend with a cheesecake obsession. According to her, it’s the best cheesecake in Vancouver (Trees Organic’s similar claims notwithstanding). I’m admittedly not a huge dessert or cheesecake fan, but I’m always eager to try the “best” anything.
At first glance, Il Pappagallo resembles any other Starbucks’ knockoff, with its comfy low-light ambiance, chalkboard menu, and espresso-centric menu. On closer glance, however, the cafe reveals its identity as a cheesecake cafe. Their entire dessert display is dedicated to cheesecakes of all sorts: strawberry, chocolate, and pumpkin, to name a few. There’s even a back fridge being used to cool their homemade graham crusts. Everything there is made from scratch, a huge difference after eating Safeway-brand cheesecake all my life.
Because there were three of us, we ordered one slice of cheesecake each. We would later regret this, because the slices were ginormous! A point (+1) for that and I cannot stress enough about the size. You cannot tell the scale from the pictures but each slice was at least twice the size of a standard slice from Trees Organic, Cheesecake Factory, or any typical Milestones-type restaurant. It’s a full sixth of the entire pie and about the size of a joke-slice of cake one would give to their anorexic friend at a birthday party. I’ve seen puppies smaller than the slice of cake I got. Okay, enough about the size. Bottom line is, for $5, you get amazing value (+1) and enough cheesecake to feed a small family.
As for the actual cheesecake, the cheese part is softer and less dense than typical store-bought cheesecake, resembling homemade cheesecake more than anything. I’m sure there’s a name for this particular style of cheesecake, but I’m not aware of it. It gets a bonus point (+1) for being less sweet than other cheesecakes I’ve had, which helps me feel less guilty for eating what is essentially a whole brick of cheese. Both the strawberry and blueberry ones were topped by fresh fruit in a syrup, which you can’t really taste too much of as the ratio of cheese:syrup was about 10:1 per bite. The Turtles-flavored cheesecake had the flavour infused in the cheese and was topped by bits of chocolate and caramel syrup. The crust is made of graham crackers and a bit thicker than I’d like, and this is coming from someone who likes their crust. On the bright side, the crust was light and not over-buttered like other cheesecakes. On the downside, it was a bit too crumbly and I ended up with a mess of a plate. But that’s probably just me being a messy eater.